Adm. John William Kime, retired commandant of the Coast Guard and former captain of the Port of Baltimore who helped to expand the federal government's role in preventing and responding to oil spills, died of cancer Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 72.
Admiral Kime was born in Greensboro, N.C., and moved to Baltimore when he was 10. Raised in Highlandtown near Patterson Park, where he dreamed of rowing across the Chesapeake Bay, he graduated from City College in 1951.
He was accepted to the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, but his family lacked the money for tuition, so for two years he worked at the local General Motors plant putting glove boxes in Chevrolets.
Then, by chance during a rain delay of a 1952 International League Orioles game, Admiral Kime saw a promotional TV spot about the Coast Guard - the "Career for Tomorrow."
"It seemed to satisfy my requirements for a good education and a challenging career," he told The Sun in 1980 when he was captain of the Port of Baltimore.
Though he later said he got into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., by the skin of his teeth, Admiral Kime soared academically, graduating second in his class in 1957.
In 1964, Admiral Kime earned a Master of Science degree in naval architecture and marine engineering and the professional degree of naval engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, graduating with distinction in 1977.
Through four decades in the Coast Guard, Admiral Kime had assignments at its headquarters in Washington and as the chief U.S. negotiator at the International Maritime Organization in London during the drafting of codes for liquefied gas ships, and led the structural design of the Coast Guard's Polar Star-class icebreakers in the early 1970s.
As captain of the Port of Baltimore from 1978 to 1981, he oversaw a 100-member marine safety office with duties that included investigating marine accidents, tracking pollution hazards and enforcing regulations and inspecting U.S. and foreign shipping.
Admiral Kime directed the drug interdiction program in Miami from 1982 to 1984.
President George Bush named him the Coast Guard's 19th commandant in 1990, a position he held for four years, overseeing 38,000 active-duty Coast Guard members and 5,000 civilian personnel. He saw his job as trying to bolster support for the Coast Guard during a time of fiscal restraint.
"We've got to take care of our people," he told The Sun in 1990. "Our people need housing and medical care ... and military and civilian pay is lagging behind the private sector."
Admiral Kime also focused on environmental issues, overseeing implementation of the Oil Protection Act of 1990 after leading the Coast Guard's response to the Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill in 1989.
Adm. Thad Allen, the current commandant, said, in a statement that Admiral Kime was a great leader who pioneered the Coast Guard's prevention of and response to oil and hazardous chemical spills.
"His legacy can be seen today in how the Coast Guard responds to a broad range of threats and hazards to our maritime, homeland and national security interests," Admiral Allen said.
The United Nations awarded him the International Maritime Prize in 1993.
Admiral Kime retired in 1994, and led ship management companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden. Until 2005, he worked with the Baltic and International Maritime Council, the world's largest private shipping organization.
He followed the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Redskins, and never got over how the Colts left in the middle of the night, the admiral's wife of 26 years, the former Valerie J. Hiddlestone, said yesterday.
Around the house, he was a lenient father and a speedy handyman, she said.
"He could do everything and anything he put his hands on," she said. "He did everything wonderfully because he was very competitive so he had to be No. 1."
Services are planned for 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at Fort Myer Post Chapel at Arlington National Cemetery.
Also surviving are two sons, Edward W. Kime of Bel Air and James G.W. Kime of Columbia; and a brother, Thomas Kime of Baltimore. His previous marriage to Nancy Sandin ended in divorce.
Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.